NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Considering what you can save in time and money, it might be time to take the training wheels off your business smartphone.
While such carriers as Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile let customers install most productivity tools and apps, carriers block access to many system-critical files. Users can't change the speed of processors or alter the way their phone handles wireless networking or manages its batteries the way they can, say, on a desktop PC. What matters for business owners is that once you do gain control of said system-critical files, well, how shall I say this, many "interesting applications" can be installed. And these apps offer what business people crave on the road: improved performance and better battery life for their smartphones.
The process for nabbing so-called "administrative privileges" over your phone is not complex. It usually involves entering an occasional tricky command or two in several places on your device. Sites such as Lifehacker maintain excellent databases on the steps for Google Android and Apple iPhone units. But geek lingo, which varies by device, will give you a feel for what you are doing: The iPhone set calls the process "jailbreaking"; Android peeps use the dental-sounding "rooting."
These a reason for the nefarious vibe. While some regulators see no crime in jailbreaking or rooting phones, carriers can really, truly hate the idea. Doing so can void your warranty, violate your carrier's terms of service or otherwise cloud your relationship with your cellphone company.
If you feel you can interpret your terms of service and manage the techno steps, though, there may be no bigger bang for you productivity buck than rooting your phone.
Apps that increase battery life
The biggest benefit of rooting a business smartphone is eking more battery life out of your device. For iPhones, I like a hack called Speed Intensifier that, despite its name, can be used to slow your handheld's processor. If you follow the steps, you can lower your phone's processing speed, its battery drain, and thus gain more up time. Android owners have it a little easier. An easier-to-install app called CPU Tuner is designed specifically to increase battery life. The app has customizable presets. For example, it cuts speed more aggressively when the battery gets low or the screen is turned off.
Keep in mind that all battery management apps take some trial and error. Some phones simply may not run noticeably longer, no matter what you install. Considering how feeble most smartphone batteries are, though, any chance to gain battery time is worth the shot.
Apps that boost performance
The other area for getting more from your phone is juicing up your processor. Called overclocking in geek circles, the idea is to squeeze extra performance out of a device by running the processor faster than the manufacturer intended. This allows the smartphone to handle emails faster, open files more quickly and do more work in less time.
There are drawbacks to overclocking: In addition to sapping battery life and potentially making the unit run hotter, overclocking can flatly shorten the working life of your phone. Overclocking, then, should be done in small steps. Try an app; if your unit is noticeably hot for extended periods, uninstall it and admit overclocking may not be for you.
Users of the iPhone can stick with Speed Intensifier for revving up their mobile lives. But the overclock app of choice for Android has long been SetCPU, $1.99 in the Android Market. Although free alternatives exist, SetCPU is worth the money. It's mature and lets users create custom profiles that automatically balance speed and battery life. It also keeps an eye on the temperature, slowing things down if your unit gets too warm.
For those road warriors who spend hours on their smartphone, the properly managed overclocked smartphone is a great way to shorten the work day.
Big note: back everything up!
Before you attempt any of this, be sure you know how to reinstall the factory configuration for your device. Instructions are usually found in manufacturer-printed or online support literature. And make sure all your important numbers and data are backed up.
A bricked -- that is, dead -- work phone makes you no money at all.
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